I’m Abhiram. I’m a Machine Learning engineer by trade and that means I work with data and code. But I love reading and story-telling and that’s how this site came to be. Here, I write short stories, book and movie reviews and just random anecdotes exploiting the English language as best I can. I love writing them. I hope you enjoy reading them :)
I’ve been trying to develop certain habits for the longest time. One of them is better consistency in writing. On this website alone, this is my 86th post, but I’ve had the site for a little less than 6 years now. And for the last few years, every now and then I’ve had streaks of 1-article-per-month. But at that rate, it’s not quite a habit.
Today I was listening to this podcast interaction between Tim Ferriss and the author of Atomic Habits, James Clear and while most of the content was familiar to me the way non-fiction dialogue is, this quote – “Reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule” struck me as extremely effective in conveying that which has been said a million other ways before – “Progress over perfection”, “Don’t break the chain” etc.
While the quote doesn’t require explanation, in the interest of extending this article and exercising the Wodehousian bean, what James Clear is conveying is simply that – If you intend to do something everyday, regardless of how Much of it you’re able to do, do it. Even if it’s for a reduced duration, over fewer iterations, lesser number of words, a smaller canvas – any lowest form of the comparative per the activity you want to perform.
So if for me that’s writing / publishing a tech/non-tech article, I should simply pick a smaller topic to write on I suppose.
I normally write my-version-of-reviews after I’m done reading a book, but this time I thought I’d do things differently because of the nature of the book I’m reading, which is, Guards! Guards! by Sir Terry Pratchett. It is the 8th book in the publishing order and the 1st in the City Watch series.
Initially, it seemed as though the book was following the Hero’s Journey …well…not so much a Hero but the journey of a dwarf who is not quite a dwarf – Carrot. He’s sent to the City of Ankh-Morpokh to do that which is the highest calling of a human – “join the City Watch”. Quite voluntarily as opposed to how people normally join the Watch. It is here that he meets his reporting officer Captain Vimes, Corporal “Nobby” Nobbs and Seargent Colon. They’d been quite content in their lack of a purpose for quite a while, allowing crime to thrive and all that. But Carrot’s arrival has coincided with a genuine need for the Watch to well…watch. And act. A dragon has been sighted flying and razing the city and it’s the Watch’s duty (among other aspirational, self-proclaimed Dragon Hunters) to take it down, so to speak.
“Thunder rolled….It rolled a six”.
– Page something
An intersectional arc is also taking shape with a Grand Wizard presiding over a rag-tag bunch of aspirational wizards is summoning a Dragon every now and then. Curious how both these events involve a dragon. Very curious. Can’t be connected surely <blink>.
That’s where I am so far. And I am thoroughly enjoying myself.
I, in the comfort of my home, in my pajamas, ordered today a bag of fries because I was too busy to walk up to my kitchen, wash some potatoes, peel them, slice them, add a little bit of oil and chaat masala and toss it in the air fryer that sits In that kitchen.
It arrived in 19 minutes. It ARRIVED in 19 minutes from the time I ordered it. That is so much faster than if I’d gone to the place, ordered it myself, waited for the order and then picked it up and came back home to eat it.
You might say, well, “That’s logical. The time you saved was in the fact that the restaurant received an order the same way you’d have done the first two steps you listed out in the manual way. They probably have a queue that processes these online orders and the only thing they need to do is wait for a person to come pick up said order.”. Yes, this is very logical. I should not be surprised by this.
And yet, I am. I’m glad for it. But I’m also a little miffed at how easy this is.
I mean, if I’d actually had to Do the work to get the fries, I might not have done it at all. Saved myself the calories.
There are multiple rabbit holes I can go down here. Supply chain, the effect of fast food on the human body and the way a little friction in doing something can likely prevent you from doing it altogether.
I think one of the biggest differences between someone who embodies a educator-mindset and someone who isn’t there yet but wants to be is –
An educator or teacher doesn’t think anything they’re teaching is beneath them or is too easy to beg teaching.
I started thinking about this when I saw time and again, experienced Python developers who I respect and have learnt a lot from talk and write publicly about topics that would be among the first ten things someone learning Python would be expected to have learnt. But this can be said for any other technical concept/subject/domain as well.
This distinction is something that’s prevented me from talking/writing about so many topics that I possibly could have. It’s not about how “basic” something is. As long as it’s something that you have learnt and believe even one person will be aided by it, it’s worth talking or writing about. This block falls flatly in parallel with the perfection-vs-progress block, except here, you’re i.e. I’m waiting to write or talk about something that is, in my mind, “complex”. Imaginary chokeholds.
But why should that be?
I can think of reasons extremely easily and none of them hold water in retrospect –
Anything easy is already done.
Anything easy would have been figured out without needing your documentation
Low hanging fruits are excuses for not wanting to think about or not wanting to put in the effort to learn and talk about more difficult topics
You’re limiting yourself when you limit yourself to easier topics
Two of these can be refuted just with a second reading.
So what if it’s already done? You’ve never put to the figurative paper your understanding of the topic yet.
So what if your document will not be referred? If you’re talking about topics purely and mandatorily to serve as look-up materials, you will always be left standing at the start line.
The third and fourth points are a little harder to fight. Might be merit in this. Every now and then you should push yourself to balance the easy topics with something a little more nuanced (that is not to say easy topics lack nuance).
The bottom line is something that everyone who’s ever decided to write something technical for an audience to read has been beaten senseless with –
Don’t think about the audience you’re writing for. Start with an audience of 1 i.e. yourself. Do the content justice. No topic is too easy to write about.*
(*) None of this is a guideline for journal based publications.
Last Saturday, I found myself free enough to accompany a couple of friends to watch Lokesh Kanagaraj & Kamal Hassan’s latest action-thriller and by now, a blockbuster – Vikram. While I wasn’t very active on social media to know much of the details around the movie (and not knowing particularly One of the details made it so much more enjoyable a watch for me). People had told me one thing though – that Kaithi, also directed by Lokesh had something to do with Vikram, so it was fortuitous that I had only watched it recently and the details were still fresh in my mind.
So, at 6 PM on Saturday, I reached Urvashi theater and took my seat to face an already dancing Kamal Hassan in his “Patthala Patthala” song. The movie took a few minutes to start making sense for me and it’s only when Fahad Faasil appeared on screen that things really began to take shape. FF and his group of government-appointed-nameless-spies were to unveil the identities of a masked group of “terrorists”. FF’s character has had a history of successful operations to his name and that’s why his team was chosen for this job as well. And we soon see why. The action scenes are brilliantly shot with nothing being thrown in for mere effect or generously. The details that you will see flying all over the internet now are woven beautifully through the movie and some of them you only spot retrospectively. The movie was brilliant for multiple reasons, not the least of which was Anirudh’s music in all his songs – the Vikram theme, the “Once upon a time, there was a Ghost” song and pretty much throughout the movie. This is a man who knows his craft inside and out.
Towards the 70% mark, there are some characters important to the overall plot are given a few minutes of importance but those minutes are worth a lot of importance and the audience roared for all the right reasons.
Apart from the mini-special characters, there were multiple film stars – Kamal, Vijay Sethupathi, Arjun Das, FaFa etc in the movie but all of them get just the right amount of screen space. And that brings me to what I thankfully didn’t know because of my absence of attentiveness on social media – the identity of the druglord whose name is uttered multiple times in the movie but is revealed only towards the end – Who is the infamous Rolex?
One of the last scenes is also how you understand the relevance of Kaithi to Vikam.
Overall time well spent. I wish I could say this of Beast as well. But I can’t.
He was halfway there and in no real hurry, so Raman walked as he had for the last few kilometers – leisurely and easily. It had been a bumpy start to the day, what with his vehicle’s engine seizing on the way to work and needing to be dropped off at the service center and his tripping on a loose brick on the pavement on his way home and landing face down with his palm attempting and failing to break his fall. He’d taken the day off, rested and on receiving a call from the service center a few hours later, decided he’d walk back and fetch his vehicle. Things were looking up now. And as he continued on his way, so did he. But the clear sky that had welcomed him out the door was now a shade of grey. He quickened his pace, but he could not outrun the clouds that seemingly instantaneously, growled and burst into lightning, thunder and a downpour that had seemed impossible just a few minutes ago. Raman was flat out running now. Had he paused to think, he might have taken shelter at a nearby shop or under a bus stand. But in his mind, all he wanted to do was reach the service center. So he ran, taking care to jump over puddles and loose stones, not wanting to trip a second time that day.
In his urgency however, he didn’t notice that he’d run off the pavement and was now running on the side of the road. Bikes and cars sped past him, just as eager to get to wherever they were going. After about a kilometer of running, he stopped and panted for breath. The weight of the wet clothes coupled with the stress of running left him gasping a little and he waited to regain his composure, still unmistakably getting drenched however. Just then a car, a blue sedan came speeding past him and mindless of the puddle next to him, splashed into and out of it, leaving an extremely brown pair of pants and shoes and an extremely angry wearer of said attire. He yelled pointlessly at the car that was long gone and then stopped, disappointment and rage lingering on his face. When he’d regained his composure, he wondered if he should just return home, change into some dry clothes and come back for the vehicle later. But he was almost there and he’d have to get drenched to go back anyway. Might as well power through and complete the mission at hand, he told himself and forged on. Soon he found himself at the mechanic’s shop where a burly man and a young boy were hard at work, tightening screws and fixing things that probably never fixing. At the sight of this dripping, disheveled man, the owner immediately dropped his screwdriver and beckoned Raman to sit on the stool he’d just gotten off of. Looking at his state, he whispered something to the little boy and the latter ran off into a small room in the shop. It took the owner a few more seconds to recognize the customer that had dropped off his vehicle in the morning. He listened to Raman’s day of woes, entries that had come pouring out the man with very little poking and meanwhile the little boy had returned, two hot cups of tea in his small hands that he offered both the men gingerly, but with a wide smile. It was only when the kid sat down on the floor next to him that Raman noticed the kid had a prosthetic leg. He looked at the mechanic, questioningly and was told about the accident at the shop a few years ago that had left the child maimed. They’d explored a few options before deciding the child needed to have a way to walk again and found a sympathetic doctor who had treated the child free of charge. The once ever-cheerful boy had spent months in pain and teary struggle, adapting to this new appendage. Raman listened to it all in silence, his eyes locked on the boy who had now resumed tightening a few smaller screws on a part of a vehicle, humming a tune from a familiar song.
Once they’d finished drinking their hot beverages, the mechanic took Raman to his vehicle, showed him the estimate and gave him the sign off. Raman was only half listening now, his mind still on the cheerful disposition of the boy who had apparently gone through so much at such a young age and had somehow managed to find a way to smile despite it all.
Before he left the shop, he shook the owner’s hand and then went over to the boy and thanked him for the best tea he’d ever had. The boy gave him a glowing smile and Raman patted him on the head.
As he rode back, the clouds having cleared up, he was still full of thoughts, a mixed bag of shame, pride, gratitude and contentment. The roads were still a mess though, he noted amid these thoughts, and slowed down as he saw an old man walking off the pavement by the side of the road and in the opposite direction.
He gently rode into and out of the puddle directly next to the old man, taking care not to splash on him even a little.
He walked slowly, pushing his cycle that carried his means of livelihood. As he passed every second house, he’d announce his presence, making sure to advertise his offerings as lip-smacking & delicious as in possible. Onions, carrots, groundnuts and more. He took particular care to slow down in front of his regular patrons’ houses & call out a little extra loudly. He stopped at the door of the local iron-wallah, one of the regulars, and cried –
“Bitiyaaa! Aapke Jhalmuriwaale uncle aa gye hain!! 🙂 “.
And as if on cue, a little girl came bounding out the door, “Jhalmuri uncle aa gye!”. And as he made a show of dishing out her favorite components in just the right quantities into a paper cone, he asked her – “Toh aaj aapne kya seekha ischool me?”
And the girl told him. Her teacher had scolded her for not completing her homework. But it wasn’t her fault. Her mother had fallen ill the previous day. Was she alright today?, he enquired. She was, he was assured.
She went on and on and he patiently listened and watched her devour his preparation.
Finally, as he always did, he packed up his bag, waved goodbye to her and left.
Not everyone engaged him the way this little girl did every other day. No one paused for longer than a transaction’s worth of time. Few even registered his face
Not this girl though. He’d forgotten how she’d started talking to him. But now it’d become a part of his route. A part of his routine.
He’d stopped charging her for the jhalmuri weeks ago.
The crack on the pavement had begun yawning at some point and had never closed its mouth. Unfortunately, Ramana was too lost in his thoughts to notice it and his right leg sank into it, tripping him enough to lose his balance and fall onto the surface, which he had the presence of mind to try and break with his hands. Unfortunately, one of these hands held a milk packet and the other clutched a newspaper roll of the day (14 Feb 1994), both of which he had just procured, and the result was two scraped palms, a mildly twisted foot, a very wet newspaper and one lost milk packet. “Great”, he muttered once he’d picked himself back up and examined the damage, “Just great.”. Perhaps, at this point, I should tell you a little about Ramana. He was 23 years old, a college-dropout at the age of 19 and a filler of job applications for a 3-year period, a pursuit at which he was yet to be successful. It was around the last qualification that he had been deep in thought about when he’d stuck his foot into the pavement crack. His father, Dr. Sapthagiri, [“M.D”, he’d made a point of announcing everytime he introduced himself] was not so quietly disappointed with the credentials of his non-Dr., non-MD son and made no attempts at hiding said disappointment everytime Ramana was within earshot. “40000 Rubees per annum!”, the good doctor had called out to Ramana’s mother, Lakshmi, that very morning. It seemed as if within the last few days, all of Sapthagiri’s friends’ sons and daughters had started their respective employments with salaries greater than Ramana’s current income of 0 INR. After the 5th day of hearing numbers in the morning in lieu of a “Good morning”, he started suspecting that his father was just inventing friends and their children at this point. Dr. Lakshmi (Ph.D) would merely sigh at her husband’s not-so-subtle mocking and cast a look of pity mixed with concern in the direction of Ramana’s room. It’s not as if the boy wasn’t trying. He just hadn’t had the good fortune of being one of those offsprings that got the best genes of both parents. Here it seemed as if he’d gotten neither. But he Was still trying.
Ramana had left the house to carry out his daily routine of bringing the day’s newspaper and a packet of milk, the number his father had called out still ringing in his ears and the train of thoughts that stemmed from his here had culminated in his crashing onto the pavement, milk and all. He’d just about dusted himself off and was searching for a hotel or something he could wash his hands at, when the propreitor of the store near where he’d fallen came rushing out – “Ayyoo, I keep telling these Municipality fellows to do something about this pavement, but do they listen! Never! Vaa vaa, come inside and clean yourself up”, he beckoned Ramana inside his shop and led him to a small sink at the back. Once he’d washed himself off and disposed of the wet milk packet and the useless newspaper roll, his eyes lingered on the rest of the store that was filled with pictures of locations that were decidedly not where they were. The store owner was a photographer, he decided, and asked incredulously- “So, you’ve been to alllll these places?”. The owner laughed and said – “No no, I’m a travel agent, the first one in the town! We’ve opened only a few months ago!”, he said proudly. Ramana had to take his word for it. It was the first time in his life that he was hearing about this sort of a profession. “So, what does a travel agent do? You’ve already denied travelling to these places”, he asked wisely. The owner, Satish, explained that he had contractors in all the places in the pictures and that they served as guides. The guides took people in the town to different places, showed them around and brought them back to the town. How many people and how many places so far, Ramana had wondered and Satish had admitted that they had only taken 2 people so far to another town 50 kms from there, but it was a start. Some of the photos had been sent to him by rich relatives by post, but that is where they wanted to go eventually, he had confided in the boy, once he’d decided that Ramana was not a prospective customer and just a curious fellow albeit a somewhat dim one from the looks of it. He did not voice this last bit of opinion. Ramana, after a few more smart sounding dialogues left Satish’s shop, thankful and filled with admiration. Here was a chap, creating an occupation out of nothing and he on the other hand had spent the last 3 years merely applying to mainstream occupations – many typing establishments (even though his typing speed was yet to be determined), some banks and one post office.
As he walked back, he thought about the last thing Satish had told him in response to what he had asked. “I started this because I wanted to travel the world but I had no money, so I thought I’d atleast try to make other people travel the world and give me money to help them do it.”. Ramana thought about what he wanted most in the world. “I want a job”, he said loudly and a resting dog stood up suddenly. By the time he reached home, he’d made up his mind. He would start a job agency for people searching for jobs. He had filled up so many forms, surely there was some merit to that, wasn’t there? What if he couldn’t get a job himself? He would help others and that would be his job. He didn’t know everything that it would take to start such an establishment, but he’d figure it out. He’d show his father that he too could make thousands of rubees. Hmph.
He walked in the door, a new man. Determined.
He washed his legs and prepared to go to his room to write up the initial plan to set up a job agency when his father’s voice rang out – “Where is the paper da Ramana?“
When I read books like these, the reaction is as I expect to have going in – very little surprise overall. But what I do get out of them are reminders. In this case, to “Show your work”. Austin Kleon is compelling with his ten tips on what he believes are different ways in which you can show your work. Work that is tangible, work that is an act of constant progress and work that while humble, is effective. Both, from a sense that demonstrates your growing skill in any field that you choose to show your work in, and in a sense that you have the satisfaction of having journaled work sufficiently to look back on time well spent. Now much of what I’ve said above are what I interpretively took away from the book. and not what was exactly said in it. And I think that is the job of the book well done. In fact, at this point in time I cannot even remember the ten tips that he’s provided. I think there is one that relates to social media, one that tells you that if you show your work, people will find you, a couple of quotes and …I don’t know. More stuff. But the point is, it made me remember to work on sharing my work but more importantly, Doing the work. Work isn’t meant to be done to be shared. The sharing should be a natural action that follows the doing, but the doing is not an option. And while I don’t remember much of the Content of the book, I do remember that I found myself disagreeing with very little of what he said. This was a good book for simply reminding me about things I knew but hadn’t taken consciously seriously. I will likely read it again.
I wrote a little about the book this show is based on, earlier this year. I’d absolutely loved it and ever since a dear friend, Reema, told me that the trailer for the Netflix show was out, I’d been excitedly awaiting its release, slated for December 29, 2021, which if you’ve still managed to keep track of time, was yesterday.
It was a little late in the day that I realised that it was here and I waited for meeting after meeting to get over so I could start watching the show.
I started episode one with a mixture of expectations – prepared for, but dreading disappointment, but hopeful that somehow it just might turn out to be a good adaptation. Because you know, in a book, it’s easy to leave out a lot of details chapter after chapter, and perform reveals slowly. I won’t tell you what can be left out because the smallest of hints are enough to ruin the experience of both reading and watching this book/show if you haven’t yet. But I digress. Episode one turned out to be extremely promising. Both the policemen grow on you – the father seems perfectly cast as I imagined him in my head but the son, enhhh, not so much. But eventually even he seems to be a good fit as the dynamics between them play out per expectations. And yes, my benchmark for the show (as all adaptations are) is the book 🙂
I made myself a cup of Maggi and settled down for episode two, deciding to turn in after that but somehow I’ve completed Episode three as well! Speaks to the well-made-ness of the show I suppose. Now, so far, there Has been some divergence from the book. Right from the beginning. Well, of Course there has. Like I said earlier, the sleight of hand that’s possible in a book can’t be transferred to the show in totality. But I’ll tell you what hasn’t changed. Lennart. His goofiness is extremely heartening to watch and the chemistry between Lennart and Zarah is beautiful. As is how they’re setting up Ro and Julia to be in Episode 4 that I’ve just started. Anna-Lena is also an excellent cast although I can’t really say if the husband couldn’t have been played a little better. But I’ll reserve harsher judgement for when I’ve seen a little more of him in the upcoming episodes.
For now, my first impression, I’m glad to say, has been one of relief.
3 episodes down. 3 to go 🙂 And yes, I will be rereading the book.